Maximo Caminero's Million-Dollar Attack on the Miami Art World

Maximo Caminero's Million-Dollar Attack on the Miami Art World

On February 16, a middle-aged man with hazel eyes and a crown of salt-and-pepper hair walked into Pérez Art Museum Miami. The heavy wooden doors on the new $220 million public building swung open with a whisper. Smooth jazz murmured from speakers hidden somewhere in the Dorothy and Aaron Podhurst Lobby. In the gift shop, teenagers in thick-framed glasses peddled $15 PAMM coffee mugs, $14 Frida Kahlo candles handmade in Peru, and $175 "reversible" Swiss cross blankets. The man forked over $12 for a ticket.

"Do you want to call the police?" Caminero said calmly. "Here. You can use my phone."

He didn't look like a tourist. While sunscreen-slathered visitors slapped around the museum in sandals and shorts, he was dressed unseasonably in a red jacket, black pants, and a stocking cap. And as the tourists traipsed straight upstairs to see the star attraction — an exhibition by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei — the man meandered around the first floor. He paused in front of a charcoal nude by Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, scratched his head at the sight of a three-foot scroll that Carolee Schneemann once pulled from her vagina, and lingered lovingly in front of a large painting by José Bedia, who happened to be his friend.

With each work of art, however, the man grew more frustrated. Of the 44 pieces on display downstairs, only two — including Bedia's — were by locals. Most of the artists hailed from Cuba or New York, and nearly all of them were dead.

Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Michael E. Miller
Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."
Michael E. Miller
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."

The man headed upstairs and passed under a giant screen on which Ai Weiwei quotes were projected. One claimed Ai had been "born radical." Another argued, "I think we have too much history. It's not so important. I think people should have fun and enjoy their own time."

"Ai Weiwei is one of China's most prolific and provocative contemporary artists," a placard announced, "internationally recognized as a result of his actions that challenge the political status quo."

The man strolled around a large room plastered with Ai's photographs of New York. There were several selfies of the artist with a bicycle wheel. In another, Ai stood naked on a chair with his penis tucked between his legs.

Finally, the man arrived at the artist's most famous piece. Three huge photos showed Ai dropping a 2,000-year-old Chinese urn onto the ground. In front of the photos sat 16 other Han Dynasty urns, each dipped by Ai into brightly colored industrial paint.

The man stood silently in front of the third photo, staring at the shattering urn. He suddenly reached down and lifted one of the painted pots from its pedestal.

"Don't touch!" a security guard shouted from across the room. But it was too late.

The man turned to face the room. For an instant, he mirrored Ai Weiwei on the wall beside him: arms raised, pot in hand. Then he let go.

The peach and green urn exploded on the polished concrete. The bang echoed around the museum like a gunshot. Guards in black jackets came running from all directions. "Ugh, my God," groaned a tourist filming the spectacle on his cell phone.

But the man who had just broken a $1 million artwork didn't bolt. Instead, he looked up at the photos of Ai as if satisfied. He turned to the security guards.

"Do you want to call the police?" he said calmly. "Here. You can use my phone."


Máximo Caminero sits on the crumbling stoop of a Wynwood art gallery. One hand cradles his head while the other presses a cheap cigarette to his thin lips. He inhales nervously. And often.

It's been two days since Caminero smashed the urn, two days since he made international headlines, two days since his life became bizarrely wrapped up with Ai Weiwei's, and two days since he was arrested and thrown in jail. The serenity of the moment in the museum is long gone. Now there are only nerves.

Caminero rubs out his Maverick on the brick and sits down inside the gallery. On the table lies a copy of the day's Miami Herald with Máximo's mug shot front page, top fold. He picks up the paper and sighs. "I never expected that this was going to escalate all over the world," he says.

But escalate it did. That Monday, New Times broke the news that Caminero — a local painter — was the mystery man behind the bizarre urn-smashing. "I did it for all the local artists in Miami who have never been shown in museums here," he said at the time. "They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It's the same political situation over and over again. I've been here for 30 years and it's always the same."

Within hours, the story was in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, and Le Monde. When a reporter reached Ai Weiwei in Beijing, the artist was angry. "His argument doesn't make much sense," he said. "If he really had a point, he should choose another way, because this will bring him trouble to destroy property that does not belong to him."

The museum called Caminero a vandal who had committed a "malicious act." Local artists were split. Some saw it as a powerful political statement. Others thought Caminero was jealous of Ai Weiwei's superstar status or simply desperate for attention. An anchor on CBS 4 even smashed a pot from Home Depot on live television before musing whether Caminero "was maybe suffering from some type of mental illness."

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
31 comments
John Wilson
John Wilson

florida is all about making stupid people famous

Lon Allen
Lon Allen

Not sure what the big deal is. He followed in Ai Weiwei steps. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can't image the Han Dynasty artist would be all that impressed with Weiwei.

Naomi Preston
Naomi Preston

This is prob one of the most well written articles put out by the New times in a long time. The subject matter wasn't worth the cyber ink but still a well written article, finally.

Alex Maciel
Alex Maciel

Not saying he was asking for it, but I would feel more sympathetic for the artist if he wasn't actually smashing a vase in his display

WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

Ai weiwei's father was jailed for political dissidence also. I think he and Caminero's story have other similarities. However, Jorge Perez has done more damage to MAM than anybody.

Vince Witty
Vince Witty

Its clearly destruction of property regardless of whatever he meant. He said "bla bla we dont support local artists" it doesnt make it ok to destroy this artwork

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................i guess the appropriate "penalty" would be for someone to bust up art created by CAMINERO equal to the market value of the vase he broke

this would be a win-win because that probably would include ALL of that clowns "art", so its gone, ending the quest to be "seen",  and then CAMINERO could take a full-time J O B at Flanigans washing dishes,  as his fifteen-minutes of fame is now over

any other clowns would see that their crap will be trashed if they get any ideas about being copy-cat vandals for the attention

typical of hispanics is to act before thinking which is why to date most 'revolutions" don't work for them and this stunt won't work for CAMINERO either

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..............................................in the end all art is strange

6785679900
6785679900

Caminero is the typical frustrated and neurotic artist whose arrogance deluded him into thinking that the quality of his pieces where at the same level of those shown in a museum like PAMM. Furthermore, it is more than obvious that he has no idea what the rules of performative art are nor the context in which it can be claimed that ones work is so. Meaning that his claim that he was just engaging in his own performance art is absolute BS. It might have been less offensive to those with a brain if he had stated he was protesting PAMM being named after some cheesy developer who donated money in exchange for an ego appeaser. He might as well stated he didn't know what got over him, or even that he just thinks Ai Wei Wei's work is a piece of shit and he thus gave it the appropriate treatment. But that is not what he claimed. He stated that he was protesting that the museum had the temerity of showing the artwork of a Chinese citizen as opposed to a "Miamian." So with these statements he revealed himself to be xenophobic and pretty unintelligent, as he is DOMINICAN, born and raised, so his demands for local art to be displayed (which in this case clearly means HIS work) in the museum are moot. I feel bad for his daughters as the guy is not only mediocre, but pretentious and arrogant too. 


Terence R Waldron
Terence R Waldron

Dat shit ain't art. And who'd he sleep with to get the entire second floor of our museum? That stuff isn't permanent, I hope.

DaniloGonzalez
DaniloGonzalez

@MikeMillerMiami Bravo! This is a very interesting article that brings to light the many perspectives of this event that until now have been ignored. It is obvious that you took the time to make extensive research while not becoming partial to any sector. Thank you for bringing to this conversation diversity and rich historical values. It is impossible to please everyone and besides, that is not your job as a journalist. I would like to challenge the public to take this opportunity to learn instead of passing the blame.

Lourdes Diaz
Lourdes Diaz

Sarah Green - Weiwei doesnt need someone like Caminero to call "attention" to him. He is an internationally known artist who exhibits worldwide. The reason that he cant leave his town is that he is a human rights activist who is under house arrest. There is a whole documentary on it, as well as worldwide magazine covers, TV and radio broadcasts. Weiwei doesnt need this kind of foolish attention.

Sarah Green
Sarah Green

New times, I wonder if you've heard the rumors that the pot smashing was an intentional attention calling to Weiwei and his work. You call him one of the most famous artists in the world but I'd never heard of him until this incident. As a "political dissident" in China, apparently he can't even leave his town without special permission from the Chinese government. And he certainly cannot leave the country. Perhaps this newfound attention has lubricated his situation at home a bit...

Eddy Earthtone Blak
Eddy Earthtone Blak

Then I stand corrected, NewTimes: the all seeing eye of South FL. I just feel this guys frustrations.. Thanks for responding back, glad you guys could "fit it in".....

Alexander Fernandez
Alexander Fernandez

Caminero won; way too much attention being paid to him. Btw, New Times, the great local artist of international renown is Jose Bédia. Badía is a brand of comestible herbs and spices

Miami New Times
Miami New Times

Eddy, you obviously haven't read the article to understand the headline. It makes it very clear what we mean.

Eddy Earthtone Blak
Eddy Earthtone Blak

"Attack on the Miami Art World?" Hey, uh.. Newtimes, tell whoever is calling the shots down there to lay off the PCP pipe. As a hardworking artist and a friend of a lot of talented hardworking individuals in this city I'm here to say that I wouldn't accept this shit as a worthy representation of Miami's art scene even if you payed me to. This "artist" should be reigned upon with shame for having the pebbles to think pots dipped in paint is work a Million smackers. I could smear shit on a wall and it would be more tasteful then this "shit", no pun intended.....

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

"His protest also illustrated the real plight of local artists, who claim that the billions spent here during Art Basel and other fairs don't trickle down to those who need it most"

The solution is simple......DON'T SUCK!

Just because you call yourself an artist doesn't mean you are one or any good.  Deal with it.

Now toss this A-hole in jail and stop defending him.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.................since when do these foreigners claim MIAMI as their own except when they feel they aren't getting their share of the AMERICAN PIE

they don't even have the proper respect for our language - which is ENGLISH - yet want every advantage and benefit the US can offer

maybe someday they will all go home to their own country and we can once again claim MIAMI for AMERICA = period

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@MikeMillerMiami @Anthonyvop1Of course you are defending him.

Do you write feature articles about vandals who smash a window?

He is no better than some jealous, lazy, entitlement trash who vandalizes property in a jealous, ignorant, anger.  You are providing a platform which is tantamount to endorsing his actions which are indefensible.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@JoseDuran @Anthonyvop1We all know why he did it.

He is a self-absorbed, publicity seeking, spoiled brat.

And this article is exactly what he wanted.

JoseDuran
JoseDuran moderator communitymanager

@Anthonyvop1  Defending his actions and trying to find out why he did what he did is completely different. Please, stop trolling.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@MikeMillerMiami @Anthonyvop1 

To single him out for a feature article is to defend him and give his hatred a platform.

You are more than welcome to write about him but do not for a moment insult the reader's intelligence by claiming you are not defending his actions.

 
Loading...